The Vilcek Foundation will present the New American Perspectives program at the 41st annual Hawai’i International Film Festival (HIFF), scheduled to run November 4–28, 2021, in Honolulu. The New American Perspectives program shines a spotlight on foreign-born filmmakers, celebrating the extraordinary contributions of immigrant artists to contemporary cinema and media in the United States.
The New American Perspectives program provides support for a series of events at HIFF. Aligned with HIFF’s hybrid format for 2021, events will be presented both in person and online. Events include screenings of five films, filmmaker Q&A sessions, a filmmaker master class, and a panel discussion with all of this year’s New American Perspectives filmmakers.
“The New American Perspectives program highlights the value of diversity in artistry,” says Vilcek Foundation President Rick Kinsel. “Just as there is no single way to tell a story, there is no singular immigrant story or narrative. In centering the voices of foreign-born filmmakers with this program, we seek to build dialogue about the importance of immigration for the arts, culture, and society.”
Films and Filmmakers
In 2021, the New American Perspectives program includes five films led by foreign-born filmmakers:
- Roshan Sethi (b. Canada), director, screenwriter
- Karan Soni (b. India), screenwriter, actor
- Geraldine Viswanathan (b. Australia), actor
7 Days (2021) marks the directorial debut of Roshan Sethi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Karan Soni in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Filming of 7 Days – a COVID-era romantic comedy that centers on two Indian American young adults set up on an arranged date by their parents – took place over 8 days in the summer of 2020. Sethi and Soni invited Geraldine Viswanathan to work on the film shortly after writing it. Viswanathan costars with Soni on television’s Miracle Workers.
- Aizzah Fatima (b. Saudi Arabia), actor, screenwriter, producer
Written by actor, screenwriter, and producer Aizzah Fatima, Americanish (2021) tackles and celebrates the complex intersectionalities of womanhood by welcoming audiences into the world of three women living in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York. In this lighthearted reimagination of (and critical divergence from) the classic romantic comedy, career-driven Pakistani American sisters Maryam and Sam (played by Fatima), and their newly immigrated cousin, Ameera, must navigate the consistent and conflicting demands of romance, culture, work, and family.
- Shih-Ching Tsou (b. Taiwan), producer
Red Rocket (2021) marks the latest collaboration between Shih-Ching Tsou and director Sean Baker. The pair first collaborated on Tsou’s debut film, Take-Out (2004), which chronicled the experiences of an undocumented immigrant delivery person working in New York City. Following on themes explored in Tsou’s films with Baker to date (including 2015’s Tangerine and 2017’s The Florida Project), Red Rocket plumbs the day-to-day trials and experiences of people living at the fringes of society. The foundation previously worked with Tsou in 2009, when she was named a Vilcek Foundation Creative Promise Prize Honoree.
- Natalia Almada (b. Mexico), director, producer, writer, editor
Natalia Almada is a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship recipient and two-time recipient of the Sundance Documentary Directing Award. Almada’s latest documentary, Users (2021), highlights the tensions between technology and the world we live in. In Users, Almada frames a wider discussion on technology and the environment around personal questions that came to Almada on her own journey into motherhood. In this visually arresting film, urgent global issues like climate change and privacy are explored from the intimate lens of a mother’s love for her children.
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched
- Kier-La Janisse (b. Canada), director
Kier-La Janisse is a producer with Severin Films, and an established author and film historian. She began her career as a writer and film programmer, working with publications and festivals throughout Canada and the United States. She is the founder of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, which offers courses and critical analyses of horror and genre films with a focus on psychology, and anthropology. Marking Kier-La Janisse’s directorial debut, documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched (2021) explores the genre of folk horror from its beginnings in a trilogy of films – Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) – through culturally specific manifestations of the genre in American, Asian, Australian and European cinema – to the genre’s revival over the last decade.
New American Perspectives 2021: Events and Programs
All of the New American Perspectives filmmakers will participate in a panel discussion on Saturday, November 13, 2021, moderated by HIFF program staff. The panel discussion will center the artists’ experiences in the industry and facilitate dialogue about diversity, representation, and access for under-represented groups in filmmaking.
Filmmakers Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni, and Geraldine Viswanathan will present this year’s filmmaking master class, speaking about their experiences in making 7 Days and in working together on other projects. Sethi, Soni, and Viswanathan’s master class will be presented on Saturday, November 13, 2021.
For details and information about the 2021 filmmaker programs, please contact Communications Manager Liz Boylan at firstname.lastname@example.org.